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Chapter VII

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"Yes, it's all right there," Michael replied.

"Well, let it stay there. In the morning John can row it round into the harbor. From there, someone will get it over to Kertch. That's all we can do with the boat."

I watched attentively the old man's countenance, but failed to discover any emotion on his phlegmatic, sun-burned, weather-beaten face, over the features of which the flicker from the flames played merrily.

'If only we don't get into trouble." Michael began to give way.

"There will be no trouble if you don't let your tongue wag. If the ataman should hear of it, we might get into a scrape, and they also. We have our work to do, and they have to be getting on. Is it far you have to go?" asked the old man again, though I had told him once before I was bound for Tiflis.

"That's a long way yet. The ataman might detain them; then, when would they get to Tiflis? So let them be getting on their way. Eh?"

"Yes, let them go," all the shepherds agreed, as the old man, when he had finished speaking, closed his lips tightly, and cast an inquiring glance around him, as he fingered his gray beard.

"Well, my good fellows, be off, and God bless you!" he exclaimed with a gesture of dismissal. "We will see that the boat goes back, so don't trouble about that!"

"Many, many thanks, grandfather!" I said taking off my cap.

"What are you thanking me for?"

"Thank you; thank you!" I repeated fervently.

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"What are you thanking me for? That's queer! I say, God bless you, and he thanks me! Were you afraid I'd send you to the devil, eh?"

"I'd done wrong and I was afraid," I answered.

"Oh!" and the old man lifted his eyebrows. "Why should I drive a man farther along the wrong path? I'd do better by helping one along the way I'm going myself. Maybe, we shall meet again, and then we'll meet as friends. We ought to help one another where we can. Good-bye!"

He took off his large shaggy sheepskin cap, and bowed low to us. His comrades bowed too.

We inquired our way to Anapa, and started off. Shakro was laughing at something or other.

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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